Happy Blogging Anniversary — to Me!

Has it really been five years?

I started this blog as a way to chronicle the writing process for my debut novel Baby Grand, particularly since I was in the throes of a massive writer’s block in the spring of 2010. I had this thought that sharing and commiserating with and cheering on other writers would help me write my way out of a hole. And somehow it did.

The blogging community has grown much in the past five years. There was a rush of bloggers around the time I started out, and the number of blogs just keeps getting higher and higher. Those of us who managed to stick around have found value in blogging and have readers who have found value in us.

Thank you for your support these past five years. As long as you continue to come, I’ll keep building. :)

Clean Reader? F-ck That Sh-t.

Have you guys heard about Clean Reader? It’s a new app that prevents swear words in eBooks from being displayed on screens. The app features three settings:

  • Clean, which will remove words such as the ever-popular “fuck”;
  • Cleaner, and
  • Squeaky clean, which will take out words such as “damn” if they bother you.

The text itself isn’t changed — after all, that would be a violation of copyright. Instead, the offending word is blacked out and the lesser word put in its place.

My first thought when I read about this was that Baby Grand would be a completely different book if read with this app. A mob story with characters who talk like choir boys?

My second thought was: Who would want to read Baby Grand this way?

By taking out the profanity, this app is not only sanitizing the text, but sanitizing the author’s intentions, the grittiness of the story’s texture, and the authenticity of the characters and the way people communicate.

I would challenge those who feel they need Clean Reader to try and open their minds to new ways of communicating and thinking. I know it may not seem that way to some, but every curse word in Baby Grand has been carefully considered. Also, there are oodles of books on the market that cater to all kinds of tastes. If profanity really offends you — and, hey, that’s perfectly fine (although I don’t get it, probably because I’m from New York) — read books that have been written by someone like you for someone like you. In my opinion, if you are dying to read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo because you’ve heard it’s such a great book — and it is — why would you want to delete some of the very elements that help to make it great?

Book Marketing Boot Camp: Press Releases

We talk a lot about marketing in my Continuing Ed. self-publishing class at Hofstra Unviersity, and one of the best ways to get the word out about your book is to write a press release.

What is a press release?

A press release is a “news story” that you write about yourself in third person. Its goal, first and foremost, is to gain editors’ or reporters’ attention, so that your news item will be placed in their publication or on their website. Nowadays, most press releases are sent by email, but you can also use snail mail or fax. As an editor, I get hundreds of press release emails a day, and in order to catch my eye, an email subject line has to:

  • Be unique or clever
  • Convey newsworthiness
  • Convey relevance

Once an editor decides to click on your press release and read it, your release should cover some journalism basics:

  • Who is this news release about?
  • What has happened that is newsworthy?
  • Where did the newsworthy event take place?
  • When did this happen?
  • How is this newsworthy?
  • Why should I (or my readers) care?

That last one is an important one. Make sure the publication or editor to whom you are emailing is the right person or outlet for your news. Do your research beforehand. Think of all the news outlets that would be interested in your news: Local newspaper? Trade journal? Website? Alumni magazine?

In the cover letter to your press release (or in the body of your email), you can detail why this news is of relevance to its intended recipient.There are various acceptable formats for a press release, but all of them include a headline, dateline, paragraph (or more), and contact information.

Once your release is emailed, it’s always a good idea to follow up on a press release in case the editor has missed it or accidentally deleted it (it happens). Give the editor about two weeks before following up (try not to hound her after a day or two), or check the organization’s website for the preferred follow-up etiquette.

#PitMad

Hey, authors, it’s that time again!

Twitter is having another pitch party! If you’ve got a completed manuscript you would like to pitch to agents and publishers, head on over to Twitter TODAY between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. EST. You’ve got a mere 140 characters to get them interested in your stuff. You are only allowed to pitch the same manuscript two times per hour, and be sure to vary your pitches, because Twitter might not let you tweet the same tweets again and again. Also, be sure to include the #PitMad hashtag as well as the category of your manuscript (Young Adult, Adult, New Adult, Nonfiction, etc.) Good luck, and may the words be with you!

Debut Author Q&A: Meet Rob Dircks

A funny thing happened on my way to an author event at the Seaford Library in Seaford, N.Y…. I got to meet some cool authors! (Imagine that!) One of those authors was Rob Dircks. I had the pleasure of being Rob’s tablemate that day, and we spent most of the time chatting books, publishing, and writing. I’m so happy to announce that Rob’s first novel, a science fiction comedy titled, Where the Hell is Tesla?, is available on Amazon. Below, Rob and I continue our chat about how this novel came to be. I wish him much success!

rob-portrait Name: Rob Dircks
Name of book: Where the Hell is Tesla?
Book genre: Science fiction/comedy
Date published: March 2015
What is your day job? For the past 20 years, my brother Dave and I have owned and operated a Long Island ad agency, Dircks Associates. Probably the most recognizable creative we did is the AOL CD — you know, 250 Hours Free? We did most of them. Now I write and design print and online communications, and do some photography/videography/audio for other national clients, such as AARP.

Your book has such an intriguing title. What is your book about? It’s a combination buddy comedy/fish-out-of-water story/sci-fi romp. A slacker security guard finds the lost journal of Nikola Tesla and talks his best friend into exploring Tesla’s secret invention, the Interdimensional Transfer Apparatus. They bounce from one misadventure to the next trying to get home until the existence of the entire multiverse winds up depending on these two unlikely heroes.

Why did you want to write this book? Ever since elementary school, I’ve been into comics, then sci-fi books and movies, and I’ve got this weird fascination with conspiracy theories. One day, I stumbled across this outrageous conspiracy theory article about Nikola Tesla — how he had secret journals that disappeared after he died, that the FBI took them, and that they contained plans for death rays and god-knows-what else. Maybe an hour later, I was still digging down this Internet rabbit hole, finding little scraps of hints and clues, this wonderful bottomless pit of Tesla intrigue, and I said to myself: What if he had something REALLY crazy in those journals? Like an Interdimensional Transfer Apparatus?

At the same time, I knew I wanted to write a comedy about a normal guy stuck in extreme circumstances. So at some random moment it all came together as “What if a slacker security guard discovers the lost journal of Nikola Tesla?” And boom. There it was.

What would you say is the most challenging part of writing a book? 1) Carving out time to write. My “real life” is constantly tugging at me, to make sure I get my paid work done and satisfy my clients. 2) Marketing. Ironically, even though I’ve been in advertising for so long, I’m less “marketing-y” than I probably should be. So I find the mechanics of promoting my work very challenging. But I’m learning.

Continue reading

Should You Ever Scrap Your Book?

I’ve often heard authors say how thankful they were that their first attempts at novels had never seen the light of day, how happy they were that those books had been rejected again and again by publishers, how first novels should never be read by anyone. I find comments like these to be so curious. If a writer had the diligence and patience to finish a book, even a bad one, I can’t imagine why he or she wouldn’t want to see that book through to the end and have it reach an audience?

I mean, bad books can be fixed, made better, transformed. Can’t they?

And while once upon a time, writers had no choice but to give up on a book when the only pathways to publication were forged through agents and publishers, nowadays, with self-publishing, anyone can publish anything. Is there any reason to leave a book in a drawer?

When your manuscript is rejected — from agents, publishers, beta-readers, creative writing professors — you really have three choices:

1.Scrap it, and start something else.

2. Ignore the advice, and keep querying or self-publish.

3. Fix the book, and then either keep querying or self-publish.

In my mind, authors should always strive for #3. Listen to what agents and beta-readers and publishers have to say, They know their stuff. But YOU know your story. If you have to, chop the manuscript into pieces and put it back together in a new, more creative, more concise way. Don’t let their comments diminish your excitement. Don’t be afraid of some more hard work — and good editing can be the toughest work of all.

So often, publishing a book is compared to parenting: Would you ever give up on a child? Would anyone even THINK about telling you to leave that one behind and start from scratch with another child?

Don’t give up. Make it work, as Tim Gunn of Project Runway likes to say. Remember your passion. Keep it with you as you make the tough choices.

In the end, whatever happens, whether you’ve created a best seller or turned a one-star book into a three-star book, I have to believe it will have been worth it.

Debut Author Q&A: Meet Colleen Oakley

Today’s featured debut author, Colleen Oakley, is a former editor of mine! Her articles, essays and interviews have been featured in The New York Times, Ladies’ Home Journal, Marie Claire, Women’s Health, Redbook and Martha Stewart Weddings. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, two painfully cute kids and a huge lapdog named Bailey. Her new book, Before I Go, is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, and at your favorite local bookstore.

021015_colleen2 Name of book: Before I Go
Book genre: Fiction
Date published: 1/6/15

What is your day job? I’m a writer. Focusing on my second novel now, but I also still write for a few magazines and websites.
What is your book about? A 27-year-old woman who’s dying of cancer decides she needs to find her brilliant-but-charmingly-helpless husband a new wife to take care of him after she’s gone. So, you know, an upper.
Why did you want to write this book? I’ve always wanted to be a novelist, but this book I wanted to write in particular because I wanted to explore what happens in young, desperately-in-love relationships when one person gets that devastating diagnosis—that they’re not going to be able to live happily ever after. Sure, it’s a theme that’s been done before, but I wanted to put my own spin on it. Specifically, I wanted to find the funny and highlight the irony in this tragic circumstance so it wasn’t just your typical sobfest.
What would you say was the most challenging part of writing this book? To find that balance—to be funny without being flippant, and to hit the real emotional depths without being too maudlin.
What was your favorite aspect of the writing process for this book? I really fell in love with my characters and enjoyed bringing them to life (even under such dire circumstances).

Continue reading